I hadn't planned on posting anything really for Father's Day as I truly believe we must remember, appreciate and Love all those in our Lives on a daily basis rather than in preplanned scheduled commercialized constructs. I do understand, however, the modern value of setting aside and designating periodic celebrations throughout the year in which the collective can help lift each other up in the shared and relatable sentiments.
However, I came across this photo of my father when he was ten-years old in New York. It was September, 1944. His Birthday month. He had a hard life after his parent's divorced in an ugly event and the siblings were split up. He told me that there were times when he was so hungry that he and his twin sister would go hide in the basement and eat the dog biscuits. He does look a little gaunt in this photo. I am not sure if it was hot, or he didn't have a nice birthday shirt.
Then I came across the other collage of photos, 70 years after the first photo and right before he turned 80 years-old.
I had put the photo collage together because we had just arrived back in Hawai'i after rescuing him from a Care Home in Maryland and flying him straight home from Dulles International Airport, and his new wife's attorney was calling and emailing me with legal and police threats for "kidnapping" my own father.
I actually sent her the photo collage and told her that it wasn't just "Proof of Life" but it was "Proof of a Beautiful Life." See you in court...
I remember when my wife picked my father and I up at the airport when we landed. I was so mentally, physically and emotionally exhausted that I was ready to cry. The whole 48-hour trip was intense from beginning to end. I had landed early Saturday morning in D.C. and couldn't sleep that night as I picked my father up at about 3:00 that Sunday morning, then straight to the airport.
Even on the airplane, where we were in 1st Class because they were the last two seats open when I booked that were next to each other. I had to block my father in next to the window seat so he wouldn't try to stand up with his combative dementia and cause a Federal incident on the aircraft.
I remember when we arrived home, I held his arm, to stabilize him, as he walked slowly to the front entrance of our apartment building. We slowly went in to the elevators and then up and into the apartment.
His two grandsons were waiting eagerly. They hugged and embraced him as he smiled. I honestly wasn't sure how much my father remembered them. That he even had grandsons. Such is the devastation of dementia.
I took him straight to the shower because I knew he loved to be clean always. He had a rough time in the airplane bathroom with the two of us squeezed inside, with me trying to change his diaper and clean him up with the baby-wipes.
So I got him undressed and helped him lift his stiff leg up slowly over the edge of the bathtub, while he tried to maintain his unsteady balance, then dropped my clothes and got inside with him.
As I washed his head with the hot water and the shower spray, he suddenly was in his familiar element. I soaped him up and shampooed his hair. He loved it, using his own hands to scrub himself and I scrubbed him with the washcloth. Two grown men squeezed into the shower, soap and suds everywhere. I even managed to shave his face clean, ridding him of the raggedly gray stubble that he disliked so much before.
It was then that I remembered how my father told me about a time when his own father was in the hospital and weak. He said the nurse was trying to give his father a sponge bath, but my father asked if he could give him a regular shower and the nurses agreed.
My father described how he had taken my grandfather into the hospital shower and undressed him, and himself, and then washed his father's frail body in the shower. He was always amazed and moved by that remembrance. Here I was, repeating the same situation with my own father. I was filled with emotion reflecting upon his words, and the full-circle of Life. I had to wonder, myself, if one day, one of my own sons would be holding me up in the shower, washing down my body.
Later, after the shower, I was so exhausted, I just wanted to sleep. My father wasn't tired however. He couldn't sit still and kept slowly walking around the living room and kitchen, looking at, and touching things, picking them up, then putting them back down.
I could see my wife was a little alarmed and trying to motion to me to get him to stay out of the kitchen. He would stick his hands inside his sweatpants and adjust his diaper from time- to-time, which she noticed. She kept everything immaculately clean and was somewhat of a germaphobe.
There wasn't anything suitable to eat as we didn't have time to plan before I left for DC on short notice. I decided that I would take my father for a drive to get him out of the cramped apartment, listen to music, get some fresh air and get him a vanilla milkshake and cheeseburger which had always been his favorite food, until I could eventually go food shopping for milk, cereal, meat and other basics.
My father had not spoken more than two words at a time, on the entire Journey, since I first first saw him at the Care Home all the way home to Honolulu. He sometimes tried to talk, but couldn't find the words or coordinate his speech well enough. We communicated non-verbally with lots of smiles and gestures.
I remember when we finally came back home after about two hours out driving around. We parked and were walking towards the front door of our building. Slow unsteady step by slow unsteady step. It took about a minute to walk ten-feet.
When I opened the front door to the building, he hesitated for a moment and looked at me. I said, "Come on dad, we are Home. Come inside."
He slowly walked through as I smiled and waved at the Security Guard sitting there.
We then turned the corner and I pushed the elevator button in the lobby while we waited.
When the doors opened, I looked over at him, motioning for him to go in, and he started backing up. He looked at the open elevator door, and then back at me. His face turned red and angry, and he stuttered out...slowly... "Son...of...bitch!" I looked at him shocked.
He then looked back at the elevator door and back at me...confused.
I realized that he didn't know where he was and must have thought that I had taken him back to the Care Home to put him away again.
I said, "Come on dad. This is home."
He then backed up and turned, and shuffling two or three steps at a time, made his way away from me, and to the front door and slowly made his way out, while I followed him.
The Security Guard had just gotten up to do his rounds and turned to see my father and I emerge. My father was still a little red-faced, and he started slowly walking towards the guard, and extended his arm somewhat and said, slowly and stuttering, ".....Help mmmmee....."
The guard looked past my father at me, a little perplexed, and I just looked at him and smiled and nodded. The guard smiled at my dad and turned to leave on his rounds.
My father slowly shuffled towards the gate that leads out onto the street. The guard stayed and held it open for my father, as he walked through. I passed the guard, smiled and thanked him. He nodded and smiled back.
I ended up slowly walking and following my father, as he slowly made his way down the sidewalk, pausing at times to look back at me, and then around at his surroundings. Then slowly shuffling some more.
At one point, when we reached the corner of the block, he looked back at me, and then forward down the street. He said, stutteringly and strained again, "My....father's.....hhhhouse..."
It was as if he was ten-years old again. In the fog of not knowing where he was. Desperately looking for a familiar street. A familiar tree. A familiar building. A familiar house. His father's house. Home.
And so we walked. He slowly turned the corner of our block and slowly walked up the sidewalk again stopping every few feet as he looked all around. People passed by us walking along their busy missions in Life. He would stop, peer up at them, opening his mouth in an attempt to speak words that never arrived. The people would just keep walking by as I smiled at them.
It had taken us about 45-minutes to walk halfway around the block. He finally stopped on the corner, exhausted and exasperated. He would look up at me, and his face would contort with emotion and confusion. Then he would look around again.
We stood there for another fifteen-minutes. Finally, I walked over to him. I put my hand on his shoulder. He looked in my eyes as I did his. I said, "Dad. This is it. We are Home. You are Home."
He slowly grabbed my hand, and we walked, slowly, together, back to our apartment building.
We passed the Security Guard on the way into the building and he smiled and nodded at me when I quietly mouthed the words, "Thank You..."
We made it upstairs and prepared the bedroom where my Dad and I would sleep together on a Queen bed. My wife and our two sons would be sequestered in the other bedroom together with a locked door. Grandfather seemed very different from the man they had last seen some years ago when their Grandmother died.
I got my father dressed for bed and took him to the bathroom but he didn't have to go. I changed his diaper again as it was a little soaked. I got him situated on the bed next to me, tucked him in with pillows and blankets, turned the fan on, and closed the bedroom door and passed out in an instant.
In the middle of the night, more like 2:00am in the morning, I was awoken from the deepest sleep I can recall in my Life, by my wife in the dark. It took all of my energy to wake my Soul from the deepest darkest place of Peace it had ever found.
I strained to focus my eyes on the silhouette of my wife in the dark, as she hurriedly whispered, "Wake up! Your father is in the kitchen! You have to get up! Now!"
I climbed out of bed exhaustedly as she quickly retreated and disappeared back into the boys' room and locked the door.
I went into the living room and in the darkness, saw my father, standing motionless in the hallway next to the kitchen. I turned on the hallway light as I approached him.
He was standing there, motionless, catatonic, with his sweatpants and diapers around his ankles, filled with excrement. He had also urinated apparently all over the floor as their was a large puddle slowly spreading out.
I was at a loss. My brain was so exhausted at that point, from no sleep for the past two days and all the nerves, stress, drama, excitement, apprehension and ultimate elation and relief. I just wanted to close my eyes and shut down right there. Just lay down and pass out on the floor wishing it would all just somehow be alright.
I got my father's feet out of his soiled clothes and guided him slowly into the bathroom and into the tub. I then ran back out and wiped and cleaned everything up as quick as I could. I threw away his sweatpants too. Everything.
I came back and got into the shower with him and we went through the the whole routine again. By then, it was almost four in the morning. I could feel my hand and arms shaking from exhaustion and my head was dizzy and spinning as I found myself unstable on my own feet.
I got my father back to bed and closed the door and laid down next to him, blacking out almost immediately.
By the time I woke, the Sunlight was streaming in on our faces. I slowly opened my eyes, turned my head and looked over at my father lying next to me, wondering if the whole past 72 hours had just been a dream. Yet, there he was. Home with me.
And I knew that my father had many, many times in my Life, cleaned my own excrement and urine off of me, and off of him as well. He had laid his body down next to mine, in sickness and in despair. To make sure I was Alright.
He opened his eyes and slowly turned his head to look at me. He then slowly grabbed my hand, and lifted it to his mouth as he kissed it. Then he smiled the biggest smile I had seen in decades.
It was Alright. We would somehow get through this. And we did.
Those next six-months of our Lives together before he passed from this World, were the most intense, draining, emotional, challenging and arduous times we ever experienced together. That ended up making them the most precious, valuable and memorable six-months together. More than my entire 50-years with him.
Because Love Never Ends. Even beyond the Veil.
Love you Father. Miss you. Happy Father's Day...
We Got This...